2009: #121 – Stiff (Mary Roach)

stiff Book #121 was Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach.  The back of the book reads:

Stiff is an oddly compelling, often hilarious exploration of the strange lives of our bodies postmortem. For two thousand years, cadavers—some willingly, some unwittingly—have been involved in science’s boldest strides and weirdest undertakings. They’ve tested France’s first guillotines, ridden the NASA Space Shuttle, been crucified in a Parisian laboratory to test the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin, and helped solve the mystery of TWA Flight 800. For every new surgical procedure, from heart transplants to gender reassignment surgery, cadavers have been there alongside surgeons, making history in their quiet way.

In this fascinating, ennobling account, Mary Roach visits the good deeds of cadavers over the centuries—from the anatomy labs and human-sourced pharmacies of medieval and nineteenth-century Europe to a human decay research facility in Tennessee, to a plastic surgery practice lab, to a Scandinavian funeral directors’ conference on human composting. In her droll, inimitable voice, Roach tells the engrossing story of our bodies when we are no longer with them.

This book, about dead people and the sorts of things that are done to them in the name of science and mourning, completes our own personal Mary Roach trifecta.  It was an interesting book… I didn’t realize all the different things that can happen to your body if you donate it to science. She even travels to China in search of a crematorium that allegedly used cadavers for dumplings in a family restaurant. It is definitely on the gory side, so if hearing about guts and bugs and unpleasant biological functions isn’t your bag, you might want to skip it.  But if you’re curious, Roach does an excellent job of making non-fiction interesting and entertaining.

Other reviews:

Stiff by Mary Roach: A Change Your Life (or Rather, Death) Book
Review: Stiff
Stiff by Mary Roach | Letters On Pages
Stiff « reading comes from writing
books i done read: Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers – Mary Roach

Audiobook length: 7hrs 48min | Word count: 79,321

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